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Theatre Design students bring a huge pelican and giant jellyfish to life at Nottingham’s new Puppet Festival

Students of BA (Hons) Theatre Design showcase their puppetry skills to take centre stage in Nottingham’s Market Square

NTU puppet team in rehearsals
NTU puppet team in rehearsals
Work in progress for the Nottingham Puppet Festival

The 2018 Nottingham Puppet Festival is a four-day, community-focused celebration of the art of puppetry on an unprecedented scale right across the city. Produced and supported through a partnership between Nottingham Trent University (NTU), Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall Nottingham, and City Arts, it involves a packed programme of shows, parades, talks, interactive sessions, cabaret, satire, family fun and the retelling of classic stories.

Helping to open proceedings in a special pop-up puppet village in Nottingham's Old Market Square, five final year students of BA (Hons) Theatre Design – Soowu Son, Hattie Noble, Stacey Wilson, Erica Sawyer and Michael Morrison - are drawing on their imagination and skills to put on a performance of specially constructed giant puppets, combining movement, light and sound.

The student project has taken shape with the guidance of NTU’s Theatre Design academic and renowned international puppeteer, Sean Myatt; together with mentor Miguel Hernando Torres Umba, a specialist trained in corporeal mime from the prestigious Mandinga Arts organisation in London.

The giant puppet show takes the form of a street narrative, involving the imposing and foreboding presence of a giant Pelican, contrasted with the fluidity and delicate beauty of giant jellyfish made from silk and based in part on the construction of Chinese lanterns. Sound effects and accompanying visuals are created from entirely recycled materials. The story of the performance reflects the struggle between corporate power, the needs of society and the ensuing implications for the environment and the community as a whole.

Development sketch work by Suwoo Son
Jellyfish sketchwork development by student Suwoo Son

Speaking about the involvement of the students in the ambitious project, visiting mentor Miguel Torres Umba, Associate Creative Director of Mandinga Arts said “ We have had the honour of mentoring the final year students of BA (Hons) Theatre Design at NTU since January. At Mandinga Arts we have extensive experience in making and performing for outdoors arts, specifically with large scale puppets. Charles Beauchamp (our Artistic Director) and I have been able to share our knowledge with the students to feed their vision, creation and delivery of new puppets for the streets.

“The primary challenges of this project have been a combination of finding the balance between the making of the puppets, and the scale and the ease of animating the puppets. The NTU students have needed to ensure the puppets not only look impressive, but are lightweight and comfortable to perform in, which are both qualities that will ensure the puppets come to life when animated.

“We are very excited to see the result of the hard work, commitment and passion that the students have shown and to perform alongside them some of Mandinga’s own creations. We can't wait to add our own contribution to the wonderful stage that the Nottingham Puppet Festival has set!”

The NTU team with mentor Miguel Torres Umba (bottom right)
The full team with mentor Miguel Torres Umba (bottom right)

The NTU student performance will be presented to the public, for free, from 7pm in Nottingham’s Old Market Square on Friday 23 March. The performance lasts for approximately 20 minutes and will be repeated throughout the evening.

Full details of Nottingham’s Puppet Festival, including guest talks being hosted at NTU on Digital Puppetry, Puppetry for Disability and Health, and Writing for Puppetry, can be found on the official event website listings.

Theatre Design students bring a huge pelican and giant jellyfish to life at Nottingham’s new Puppet Festival

Published on 7 March 2018
  • Subject area: Art and design
  • Category: Culture; School of Art & Design

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